Best Times to Go to Europe
Tourism seasons in Europe change with the weather seasons with a few exceptions here and there throughout the year. There are pros and cons to every season. The best times to go to Europe depends on your personal priorities.
Tourist Seasons In Europe
European tourist seasons can be broken down to seven distinct times of the year. There are both positive and negative things about each of them. The tourist season are:
- Summer Season - June and July
- August Vacation Month - August
- Autumn Season - September through November
- Winter Season - November through Easter
- Christmas/New Year Week - End of December through the beginning of January
- Easter Week
- Spring Season - Easter through June
A vast majority of tourists who visit Europe go during the summer season. It is also called the high season. Since school is out, families with school aged children and college students have time to travel. Many people do not have time to go to Europe at any other time of the year.
- Pros: The weather is warm and inviting. You can dine at sidewalk cafes, stroll the sights wearing shorts and hang out at the beach. Everything is open and there are festivals every week. June features the Stonehenge Summer Solstice in the United Kingdom, the Fete de la Musique in Paris and the Festival of St John in Florence. July boasts the Il Palio in Florence, Montreux International Jazz Festival in Switzerland, Bastille Day in France and the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. If you like a bustling atmosphere, the summer season is a good time to go to Europe.
- Cons: Crowds can be ridiculously large. That means long lines everywhere. You will spend much of your time in Europe waiting to get into museums, get seated at restaurants and get into the restroom. Prices are most expensive during summer when demand is high and supply is low. You will often have trouble finding seats on trains, busses and subways. Sometimes the weather can be uncomfortably hot, especially in Southern Europe. You may end up seeing more tourists than native Europeans.
August Vacation Month
August is the month when most Europeans take their vacations. As a result, most the Europeans who are still in Europe are tourists themselves. This greatly impacts the kind of experience an American visitor has in Europe.
- Pros: There are fewer tourists from outside of Europe. This means smaller crowds and lower prices at hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions in most European cities. You can also buy much cheaper airline tickets to Europe in August.
- Cons: Many businesses and tourist attractions reduce their hours of service or shut down completely. You may find yourself walking around abandoned streets lined with locked up shops and restaurants. Resort areas like beaches are much more crowded in August as Europeans head to the water. This makes European resort areas much more expensive.
The autumn season begins when the kids go back to school in the fall. The weather cools down and tourist crowds thin out. It is a very pleasant time to go to Europe. The autumn season runs from September until it starts getting really cold in November.
- Pros: Crowds are much smaller and the weather is usually pleasantly cool but not cold. Prices for airline tickets to Europe drop significantly from summer prices. Most restaurants, hotels and tourist sights are still open. Many also drop their prices in the autumn season.
- Cons: It rains more in the autumn season. The weather can be unpredictable so it is difficult to know what to pack. Some people find it harder to get away from jobs and school for a visit to Europe in the fall.
Europe can be beautiful during the winter. A light layer of snow on a famous monument is a sight to behold. Many mountain areas with ski resorts consider the winter season the high season.
Pros: You will encounter very few crowds or lines in most areas of Europe. During the winter season you will often find the lowest prices of the year for airfare, hotels and tourist attractions. In many cities and town in Europe you will be virtually alone with the locals enjoying a genuine European experience.
Cons: It can be very cold in Europe during the winter. Snow is common in many areas requiring you to pack more clothes. Many shops, restaurants and museums reduce hours. Some shut down for the winter season for maintenance or restoration. Ski resort areas are packed throughout the winter season. Expect to pay high prices if you can even find a room.
Christmas/New Year Week
The end of December through the beginning of January is a short busy spurt in the middle of the slow winter season. There is a two week break in the school year allowing families with school aged children to go to Europe without missing classes. Many relatives of college students studying in Europe go there to visit their loved ones.
- Pros: The Christmas season is a magical time in Europe. It is beautifully decorated with lights and religious displays. There are several impressive festivals including the St Thomas Christmas Market in Helsinki, the Kaiserball in Vienna on December 31, and the Paris Grand Parade on January 1.
- Cons: Prices are high as holiday travelers compete for the limited number of services that are open during the winter. Airfare and hotels are as expensive as the high season in the summer. It can be very cold in Europe in December and January. Snow can impact transportation by delaying flights and trains. Rome is particularly crowded at Christmas time as Catholics flock to the Vatican for Christmas mass.
Easter week is similar to Christmas week in Europe. It is a busy time in a normally slow season. Easter week tends to be a less crowded time to go to Europe than Christmas week since spring breaks at American schools are staggered across several weeks. Easter marks the unofficial start to the spring tourist season.
- Pros: Europeans are very serious about their Easter celebrations. There are festivals throughout Europe to celebrate holy week. These are especially prevalent in cities and towns in Italy, Greece and Spain. Some of the most notable are in Rome, Patmos, Seville, Polermo and Valencia. Celebrating Easter in Europe offers a completely different exerience than you can have in America.
- Cons: As with Christmas time, prices are very high during Easter week. Vatican City is especially crowded with Catholics celebrating Easter with the Pope. The weather is unpredicatable. It can be quite nice but it is more likely to be chilly and damp.
The spring season runs from Easter until June. This is an unpredicatble time to go to Europe. The weather can be quite nice but it can also be awful.
- Pros: Prices are lower than the summer season and the crowds are not up to their summer peak yet. Europe is fresh and clean as cities and towns dust off the winter snow and prepare for the busy summer season. Hotels, restaurants and tourist sites unveil the repairs and renovations they worked on over the winter. It is a very pretty time to be in Europe as flower bloom in the crisp spring air.
- Cons: Price are higher than the winter season. They creep up gradually the closer you get to summertime. A beautiful sunny spring day can turn into an ice filled spring night. You will need to pack for both summer and winter weather in the spring. Many establishments are still operating on limited schedules or closed for the winter.
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